Contrary to popular belief, introducing a new dog to your older pets isn’t as simple as dropping her in the middle of the pack and expecting them to just get along. In fact, doing it that way can result in a lot of fighting and barking — not a good start to a long life of living together. To prevent that from happening, here are some essential tips to keep in mind when introducing a new dog to your family.

Take long walks with the dogs before introducing them to each other.

Excess energy is something that can potentially turn an introduction into a mess of flying fur and snapping teeth, especially if the resident dogs are from excitable breeds. To resolve that, take them out on a long walk – long enough to really drain all that excess energy and make them receptive to meeting the latest addition to their pack.

You can have your new dog join in this long walk, but it’s ideal to have someone else walk them, preferably some distance away from your current pets. Should you want to try and get them to meet, or at least be near enough to see and smell each other, you should do so at the very tail end of your walk. This way, the energy and excitement levels on both sides are low enough to facilitate a peaceful and stress-free meet-and-greet.

Also, be sure to use durable dog collars on all your dogs during this time, as new company may get them excited enough to the point that they’ll want to just tug free from your grasp.

Introduce the dogs to each other on a neutral territory.

One thing to remember is that all dogs have a territorial pack instinct. By introducing a new dog into your pack, you are essentially placing an intruder in their territory, and this can lead the resident dogs to bully or attack the new dog.

It’s in the new dog’s interest then, that you do the introduction in a neutral territory. This means that it has to be done in a place that’s both new to your new dog as well as the old dogs.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be too far away from your home. A place nearby that you rarely take your pets to is good enough. This way, the presence of your new dog won’t trigger your old pets’ territorial instincts.

Prepare to intervene at any time.

No matter how perfectly you set everything up or how well-behaved your dogs are, there’s always a chance that things may not go as planned. Either your new dog still feels anxious about meeting new dogs and being in a strange new place, or your resident dogs are still brimming with energy that they can’t help but be rambunctious. Whatever the reason, you need to be ready to recognize when things are about to go awry, and step in as necessary.

Signs that you need to intervene:

  • A dog is refusing to interact at all with other pets, either standing completely still or running away to hide.
  • A dog is displaying overt signs of submission, such as rolling over on its back or urinating on itself.
  • A dog is displaying overt signs of discomfort, such as drooling, yawning, showing of teeth or licking of lips.
  • A dog looks absolutely terrified: stiff body language, raised hair, or wide eyes.

If you spot any of these signs, then you need to get in the middle of things right away. Pick up your dog carefully and gently and place her in a safe and quiet spot in the house — preferably one where the other dogs can’t get to. Spend some time with her there until she is finally able to relax and interact with you. If you do this right, you’ll be able to prevent things from escalating. Fighting among the dogs can lead to grudges that will take a long time to be resolved.

If nothing works, consult a professional.

Finally, if you’ve tried everything and your new dog still won’t get along with your existing pets, then it may be time to get professionals involved. Remember that while dogs are affable and friendly pets, they have their own personalities, too —and just like humans, sometimes they’ll meet someone they just can’t get along with, no matter what.